Climate change affects children’s fundamental right to survival, development: Study

Children bear the brunt of climate change as it affects their fundamental right to survival, development, protection and participation.

The ‘Protect a Generation: Climate security for India’s children’ report by PwC India and Save the Children India is based on a year-long study of 636 households in Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal, covering three different hazard-prone ecosystems floods, droughts, and cyclones, the report says.

climate change
Representational Image/  Lucas Marcomini, Unsplash

People in the three states said extreme weather conditions have impacted their economic situation, while up to 58 per cent of the respondents said their children faced health issues due to climate crises.

The study aims to understand the impact of climate change on children, identify risk and mitigation strategies, and develop a roadmap for a climate-resilient future.

The growing instances of extreme weather events like floods, cyclones, erosions in disaster-prone areas increase the socioeconomic and psychosocial vulnerabilities of the children living in these geographies and threaten their fundamental rights, the report said.

The key findings of the study include:

  1. Three in four households in most districts said that rainfall had decreased,
  2. at least 60 per cent of the households said climate crises impacted their economic situation,
  3. up to 90 per cent saw a negative impact of climate crises on drinking water
  4. up to 75 per cent of the households saw their houses damaged by climate crisis-related events
  5. up to 14 per cent of the respondents knew at least one family member that migrated because of a climate-related disaster
  6. up to 58 per cent of the respondents said that their children faced health issues such as dehydration, skin diseases and allergies due to rising temperatures
  7. more than 50 per cent of the respondents said that children could not play outside due to the heat,

“The environmental, social, and economic impact of climate change can be lasting and significant in a developing country like India with a population of more than 1.3 billion. The lives and livelihoods of a significant proportion of the population may be affected, especially those dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, forestry, tourism, animal husbandry, and fisheries, says the report.

India’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, with about 58% of the population dependent on agriculture for livelihoods.27 Studies predict a decrease in annual agricultural incomes by 15–18% and in agriculture yield by as much as 2.9% due to climate change.28 In India, 268 million people survive on less than USD 1.90 a day.29 While the impact of climate change will be spread across India, it will be pronounced in rural areas and among the marginalized and socio-economically backward communities, aggravating the existing vulnerabilities.

The issue of climate change and its impact on children is of utmost importance in a country like India, which has a significant child population.

“The report highlights the impact of such disasters on marginalized and vulnerable children”, said Sudarshan Suchi, the CEO of Save the Children to media.

Based on the findings of studies conducted, six adaptation strategies are proposed:

  1. Strengthening the implementation of existing child protection and welfare schemes and leveraging child frontline workers towards climate resilience of children
  2. Promoting use of mHealth applications among communities
  3. Ensuring child protection in disaster-prone areas
  4. Developing guidelines for climate- and disaster-resilient infrastructure. Climate proofing of critical infrastructure to climate variability and extreme events in the present and future
  5. Ensuring livelihood and food security through CSA practices and alternative livelihoods
  6. Promoting sustainable water management
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